Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Will And Kate's Unlikely Island Home

Originally published on Click2Houston.com

BEAUMARIS, Wales -- Far away from the heaving, cheering crowds and pageantry of Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding day is the tiny windswept island of Anglesey (pronounced: "Angle Sea"), in northwest Wales. For a while, at least, the couple will call the island home while William completes his current tour of duty.

He is stationed at Royal Air Force base Valley, on the island's western coast, serving as a search and rescue pilot. He has already taken part in a number of rescues both on sea and in nearby mountainous terrain. His presence on the island has not gone unnoticed, and that notoriety is only set to increase as he and Kate step further into the limelight via their royal duties.

There is a certain irony in the couple that will most likely be Britain's future king and queen calling Anglesey home. The island has always taken pride in being just that little bit different from the rest of the British archipelago. Almost 2,000 years ago, it was one of the last strongholds against Roman invaders. According to legend, the Romans killed all the men and cut the women's tongues out to keep them from telling children of their ancestry.

Today, it is one of the furnaces of Welsh-language culture. Despite the majority of Welsh speakers living in the southern areas of Wales, the bulk of the language's authors and poets come from Anglesey and the immediately surrounding areas of north Wales.

Being a Welsh speaker often goes hand in hand with being a Welsh separatist. Roughly 70 percent of Anglesey's population are Welsh speakers. The island's representative in Wales' government is Ieuan Wyn Jones, head of Plaid Cymru -- a political party whose members have long sought to break from the United Kingdom and make Wales an independent country.

Owain Môn was born and raised on Anglesey and is so fiercely proud of his roots that he uses the old Welsh tradition of adopting one's region as a surname. His name more or less translates to: "Owain of Anglesey." He is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not particularly interested in the royal wedding. And he questions any benefit the presence of William and Kate might bring.

"Let's say that it's good for Anglesey financially," says Owain. "To what end? A couple extra Yank tourists show up; so what? How long will that last? It's hardly building a sustainable future, is it? And the people they might bring, what good are they? They don't come to see what's actually here. They don't respect my culture."

Owain's viewpoint is relatively common in the region, but it is a viewpoint most prefer to keep to themselves. People of Anglesey have a tradition of showing a certain tolerance toward things they disagree with. A visitor might not even be aware of locals' complacent dislike of William and Kate. That would be especially true if he or she spoke to someone in the tourist trade.

"It can't hurt, can it? If people want to come here in hopes of spotting [William and Kate], they're very welcome," says John Rigby, landlord of the Sailor's Return pub.

Nodding toward a shop across the road that has bedecked its storefront with Union Jack banners, he notes that business owners in his village have seen the wedding as an opportunity.

"We've got some bunting up already," he says. "I suspect there will be more [decoration] on the day."

The couple's direct effect on tourism, however, may be difficult to gauge. Several ferries a day run from Anglesey to Ireland, making Anglesey already-well-traveled territory. Indeed, in the days immediately before the royal wedding it was an escape route for many of those not interested in celebrating.

Thanks to the official holiday days resulting from the royal wedding and May Day, upward of 2 million Britons are expected to be abroad when William and Kate take their vows. Among them are John and Debbie Shields, from England's Midlands region.

"We're going over to Ireland to stay with her sister. We'll be there the whole time, thank God," says John. "I have no interest in the wedding. I will be sitting in the back garden enjoying a pint, thank you."

Debbie is less cynical, saying she plans to watch the wedding on television.

"It's a bit of fun, isn't it?" she says. "And it's historic. I'm interested to see what everyone is wearing."

The couple travel frequently to Ireland, usually spending a night on Anglesey before catching a morning ferry. Asked whether they think the presence of William and Kate will have an effect, they are unsure.

"I would hope they wouldn't bring too many more people," says Debbie. "It's already quite bad in the summers."

"I'm not sure William and Kate will mean that much," says John. "With the good weather we've been having, that blinking Gadhafi could buy a summer home here and people would still come."

1 comment:

pimalai said...

It sure looks like Anglesey would be a nice place to visit, even considering the views of Owain Môn. All that's left now is to find the time to actually do so.